If you are into the fitness world at all, I’m sure you have heard of IIFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros. This is a diet that is considered flexible, because you can fit “treats” or almost whatever you desire into your daily diet, but still maintain your physique. Each individual has different macros that vary by weight, height, age, and fitness goals. Counting macros is not for everyone, but it is a great way to track and control your daily intake.
What are macros?
Macronutrients or macros are fats, carbohydrates, and protein. As I mentioned earlier, depending on your goals you will consume varying amounts (grams) of each macronutrient.
Fats=9 calories per gram
Carbohydrates=4 calories per gram
Protein=4 calories per gram
This may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s quite simple and I’ll explain how you can determine your very own macros below.
You may be thinking…what about other nutrients? Calcium? Fiber? Iron? Vitamin C? D? And so on…
Well for me, I like to eat “clean” macros. Some people try to fit unhealthy foods like sweets or pizza into their macros, but I try to get in a lot of fruits and veggies. I don’t enjoy eating junk food all the time and consuming high sugar or high sodium foods can take a toll on your body in the long run. Of course it’s personal preference, but be mindful of all nutrients.
Who should count macros?
Counting macros can be time consuming and hard to keep track of, so to be honest counting macros is not for those with low determination, willpower, or control. In my opinion, counting macros is best for those who want to gain more control of what they consume in a day, those who are close to their body goals but are currently at a plateau, or those who want to try something new! If you want to keep yourself in check and are willing to put more time into your meal planning, IIFYM may be perfect for you. You also may be consuming too little or too much of one or more macros, so now you can determine what works best for your body and lifestyle.
How do you determine your macros?
There are a number of sites that have macro calculators which automatically calculate your numbers after you punch in some things about yourself. I use Katy Hearn’s calculator, and below are screenshots of each step filled with my results.
- Gender, age, height, weight
This is obviously self explanatory…my weight fluctuates between 103-108, but I’m generally 104 so that is what I use!
TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure is the amount of calories you burn per day (on average). Your TDEE takes into account your BMR and your daily activity. BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate which represents how many calories you burn per day by doing absolutely nothing! As you can see I burn almost 2000 calories a day naturally, which is awesome in my opinion!
So you just select either athletes formula or lean mass formula and your exercise level.
The following exercise levels are available:
-Sedentary (no exercise and desk job)
-Exercise 3-4x per week
-Exercise 5x per week
-Intense (exercise 6x per week and physical job)
If you currently do not exercise at all, but you are going to start exercising 3 times per week in combination with macro counting, select what you WILL be doing.
- Your Goals and Intensity
Here you will determine whether you want to lose fat, maintain, or gain weight/bulk. You have a couple of intensity options to choose from if you want to gain weight or lose fat. For myself I chose standard (20%) because I don’t have excessive amounts of fat, however I would like to drop by body fat percentage. Choose what you think will work best for you and is reasonable for your lifestyle right now.
- Nutrition Plan
Customizing your nutrition is fun, because you can decide how you want to ration your macros. I always stick with 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, this way I can continue to build my muscles. I also always choose the high portion of fat, because who doesn’t love eating more fat! Hello peanut butter! Your carbs will automatically calculate based on your protein and fat ration. Your carb intake will be higher if you lower either protein, fat, or both. So think about what you enjoy eating most in a day and make your decisions based on that!
Finally you get your results! This also includes how many calories to eat per day. She breaks it down into grams per meal as well, and there is a menu where you can adjust how many meals you eat per day (1-7). I don’t pay attention to the grams per meal. I eat 3 meals per day and 2-3 snacks, so of course my snacks will have less grams.
Wasn’t that easy?!
How do you track macros?
There is this wonderful app/website MyFitnessPal. I’m sure there are other macro/calorie trackers, but this is what I use. You can adjust your calories and macros by going to the ‘Goals’ tab. Unfortunately you are unable to manually enter your exact macros, but you can choose percentages that are close and then account for the differences in your head. With FitnessPal, you are able to scan in food with the barcode or you can search for foods and once you add it once it saves in your history. You can even add your own recipes or insert a website link with a recipe and it will calculate the nutrition facts per serving itself.
Or you can stick to regular pen and paper and create your own little food diary!
Personally, I find it very difficult to hit my macros on a daily basis if I don’t plan things out, so I use it once per week, meal prep on Sunday, and eat basically the same thing everyday for one week. This way I know that I am reaching my nutrition goals.
Some things to take note of
- Definitely purchase a food scale. You will need to weigh out your food for accurate results…you’ll be surprised how small some servings truly are. I use this scale.
- MyFitnessPal does not always have correct information in the general search. It is best to scan your own product or only choose verified items (noted by a tiny check mark).
- Do not adjust your macros per day according to your workouts. If you enter your fitness activity for the day in MFP it will subtract it from your nutrition and make you believe you should eat more. Consume the same macros everyday.
- If you are unsure that your macros are fit for you, try it out for a couple weeks, see how you feel, see if you notice any physical changes, and adjust if needed.
- I suggest you drink one gallon of water per day, especially if you will be increasing physical activity.
- I have one cheat meal per week (typically). Try to hit your macros for most of the day, just don’t track your cheat meal. I suggest a cheat MEAL not a cheat DAY, but hey sometimes things happen!
- Also pay attention to your sugar intake! I try to stay around 28 grams or less of added sugar (I don’t count sugar in fruits, because those are natural sugars). If you are interested in learning more about sugar consumption/tracking read this great post by my sister!
- Track e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Have you read your coffee creamer label lately?
- Don’t stress about hitting your macros exactly. I’m always a few grams off everything.